Clemson started spring practice for the 2022 season this week, marking the first official checkpoint in the build-up to a campaign that has as much as intrigue as we’ve seen around Dabo Swinney’s program in years. For the first time in seven seasons, the Tigers are not taking the field as the reigning ACC champions. Instead, they’re a team hungry to reclaim the program’s preferred position atop the league.
The run of six consecutive ACC Atlantic titles, conference championships and College Football Playoff appearances all came to an end in 2021. Clemson dealt with injuries, inexperience and a bumpy start to the schedule, but rallied with six straight wins to finish what became the program’s 11th consecutive 10-win campaign.
Any notion that this would be a page-turning moment for Swinney’s program was fortified by the offseason departures of both coordinators for head coaching opportunities. Swinney’s message to the team during offseason conditioning drills earlier this year was that the “torch has been passed.” With many of the players and coaches from the six-year playoff run gone, now is the time for the 2022 team to leave its own mark in pursuit of that championship standard.
So, while this marks the 14th spring practice with Swinney leading the program, it feels like the beginning of a new chapter in Clemson football history.
After years of being mentioned as a potential target for head coaching positions, defensive coordinator Brent Venables was hired by Oklahoma to replace Lincoln Riley. Venables arrived at Clemson in 2012, and by 2014, he had the Tigers checking in as one of the best defensive units in the country. Swinney’s choice to fill the vacancy left by Venables came from internal options with Wes…